SOARS is a Rich Source of Extension Data

Deborah Maddy
Deborah Maddy, Associate Provost, University Outreach and Engagement Associate Director, OSU Extension Service
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It has become a summer tradition that I report on the interesting organizational facts I discover while cruising SOARS, Extension’s electronic Stories, Outcomes and Accomplishments Reporting System. I had the privilege of delving deep into SOARS when preparing OSU Extension Service’s 2011 Report of Accomplishments (ROA) and 2012 Plan of Work (POW). Both the ROA and the POW were recently submitted to and approved by our federal partner, NIFA/USDA. If you are interested in viewing either the ROA or the POW, please visit our Plans, Budgets, and Reports page.

Thanks to each of you who made a contribution to the success of the ROA and the POW by entering your 2011 information and data into SOARS. The information and data you provide via SOARS is the primary source for all federal and state reports, briefings and presentations; the annual academic report to the Provost; budget support materials at all levels; press releases and media alerts; marketing and social media efforts; and many more communication efforts. The organization depends on your SOARS reports for telling Extension’s success stories. If we are to continue to deliver relevant, research-based knowledge through our educational programs, we must document and communicate the impact and value of our work. I acknowledge that reports are the least favorite activity for most Extension faculty members, but good reporting is essential to our future success.

Good reporting includes strong, articulate impact statements that focus on measurable outcomes. If you conducted a program evaluation that resulted in knowledge gained, actions taken or behaviors changed, you also need to complete a SOARS impact statement. This section of SOARS is our most valuable resource for creating marketing materials, news stories, talking points and general reports for use with our stakeholders and the public. Extension faculty submitted 192 impact statements in 2011, a 48% increase over the previous year. Thank you for making SOARS a rich and fertile source detailing the results of your important work.

If you feel the quality of your impact statements could improve, help is on the way. By October 1, 2012, thanks to senior faculty research assistant Linda Brewer, web-based learning modules will be available to guide you in better impact reporting. Watch for more details in the next issue of ConnEXTion.

As promised, here are a few interesting facts I discovered while cruising SOARS:

Recession Impacts Extension

In 2011, OSU Extension had 193.6 FTE paid on federal and state dollars. This represents 27 fewer FTE, or a 12% decrease, than when the recession began in 2008. Meanwhile the overall Extension budget is approximately 30% smaller today than it was in 2008. We’ve negotiated through these difficult times by tightening our belts, applying attrition as a management tool and downsizing Extension’s administrative footprint. To date, we’ve kept all whose performance has been fully satisfactory and who wish to continue working for OSU Extension employed.

Extension serves the state

2,130,824 Oregonians engaged at some level with Extension during 2011, compared to 2,163,893 reported in 2010 for a 1.5% decrease . . . These numbers include contacts made in group educational events or via phone, interactive video, mail, e-mail, newsletters, site or office visits. They do not include web hits or mass media.

Volunteers expand outreach

Over 14,000 volunteers (14,048 to be exact) helped Extension deliver educational programs across Oregon . . . Extension can achieve greater results and build community capacity with the help of volunteers. We value the public good that comes from collaborating with volunteers, a contribution of over a million hours of service – the equivalent of about 567 FTE.

Grants awarded enhance engagement opportunities

In 2011, 246 grants were awarded to OSU Extension faculty members, resulting in nearly $24 million of revenue. The grants varied in size from a few thousand dollars to a million-plus figure. Leveraging state dollars is one of the key objectives that our state funders use to measure Extension’s success. These extramural funds are possible because base capacity is provided by state appropriations that leverage 2.6 outside dollars for every state dollar invested during the last biennium.

Extension Faculty are respected as scholars

In 2011 Extension faculty authored 138 scholarly publications. Scholarship is defined as intellectual and creative work validated by peers and communicated . . . The medium and the review processes varied greatly, but the creative and intellectual work of OSU Extension faculty is being adopted and integrated by peers and publics beyond the university and the state.

. . . and recognized for good work

Extension faculty and staff received 91 community/industry (9), university (10), state (21), regional (19), national (29) and international (3) awards in 2011. A couple awards of note: the 4-H international exchange program received national recognition for extraordinary quality and Anne Hoisington received the Western Extension Directors Association Award of Excellence for engaging the medical community in combating childhood food insecurity. It is a continued privilege to work with such a dedicated and high performing group of people.